News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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High Court Rejects Student-Speech Case

The U.S. Supreme Court declined last week to hear the appeal of a Minnesota man whose daughter was expelled from her charter school in a dispute over free speech.

In 1995, Mary Fister was a student at the Minnesota New Country School in Lesueur when she interviewed fellow students who were researching deformed frogs in the area.

When one student's parents objected to her using their child's quote, she posted their letter on a cubicle wall near her desk under a sign that read, "Making a mountain out of a molehill." School officials requested that she take it down because they considered it a form of harassment.

School officials ultimately removed the letter from the cubicle wall. But Ms. Fister subsequently replaced it.

She was suspended three times and then expelled for a year for engaging in disruptive conduct. Her father, William T. Fister, filed a lawsuit contending that his daughter had a First Amendment right to post the letter.

Both a federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled for the charter school.

The high court declined without comment to hear the appeal in Fister v. Minnesota New Country School (Case No. 98-410).


OCR Examining Discipline Practices in Ohio District

Department of Education civil rights investigators plan to examine whether the Akron, Ohio, school district is disciplining black students unfairly.

The department's office for civil rights will conduct a compliance review in the 32,000-student district to determine whether it disciplined a disproportionate number of minority students. Education Department spokesman Rodger Murphey said the investigation was ongoing. He declined to comment further.

Karen Ingraham, the district's executive director of communications, said the district had no official comment, but added that Akron officials follow a specific discipline policy.

In September, community activists complained following the release of discipline figures in a 400-page audit. The report, based on a curriculum study paid for by the district, was conducted by Phi Delta Kappa, a professional education group based in Bloomington, Ind.

Phi Delta Kappa reported that the Akron schools handed out more than 20,000 suspensions to 7,993 students in the 1997-98 school year, Ms. Ingraham said.

Of those, 63 percent were given to black students and 35 percent went to white students, she said. Overall, 48 percent of the students in the district are black and 50 percent are white.


Vol. 18, Issue 12, Page 18

Published in Print: November 18, 1998, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
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